North Korea may be allied with Russia, but the Ukrainian army has started firing North Korean rockets at Putin's forces. It's the latest illustration of how the West's drive to sustain its proxy war against Russia has turned Ukraine's arsenal into a wacky smorgasbord of the world's weapons, transcending both time and geography.
The North Korean rockets are being fired from Ukraine's Soviet-era Grad multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) launchers. Their use was first reported by the Financial Times, after Ukrainian troops showed them off to the paper's reporter. The soldiers say the rockets were "seized" from a ship by an unidentified "friendly" country.
A Ukrainian defense official implied the rockets may have instead been captured from the Russians. "We capture their tanks, we capture their equipment and it is very possible that this is also the result of the Ukrainian army successfully conducting a military operation." Or maybe not.
Whatever their precise origin, the rockets are nothing to brag about. A Ukrainian artillery officer told FT that the North Korean rockets -- mostly manufactured some 30 or 40 years ago -- are used grudgingly, as they're highly prone to misfiring or failing to detonate. Accordingly, the soldiers cautioned against standing near the launcher while it was in action, saying the rockets "are very unreliable and do crazy things sometimes.”
News of the presence of North Korean rockets in Ukraine's arsenal comes just days after Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pyongyang to mark 70 years of the Korean War armistice and to "strengthen cooperation" between the countries.
Western governments have been going to great lengths to keep Ukraine's army in action, to the point of significantly decreasing their own arsenals. Most recently, the United States started supplying Ukraine with cluster munitions, which are banned by an international treaty that has 108 signatories -- but not the United States.
It's only a war crime of someone else does it?— Veterans For Peace (@VFPNational) July 14, 2023
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in 2022 acknowledging the use of cluster bombs by Russia is a war crime. A year later Biden does same thing pic.twitter.com/bCmmJ51krW
Asked about the controversial move, President Biden went off-script and acknowledged the real reason why his administration would provide Ukraine with weapons known to cause disproportionate harm to civilians -- weapons that his own administration had condemned when it was suggested that Russia might be using them: "[The Ukrainians] are running out of [155mm artillery shells], and we're low on it."